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WATCH: The Israeli Robot Who Wants to be Spider-Man

WATCH: The Israeli Robot Who Wants to be Spider-Man

September 29, 2009

Robotics & High-Tech

Click here to see Spiderbot in action. 

Even before the movie franchise existed, Spider-Man was known for his ability to scale great heights by shooting webs with his wrists that attach to buildings and allow him to swing for kilometers from one to the next.

Spider-Man’s agility recently inspired students in the robotics department at Ben-Gurion University to create a robot that can move like the superhero. The robot’s prototype, which recently took its first steps in a video posted on YouTube, is called Spiderbot.

Spiderbot is still far from matching its spiritual father’s speed: It weighs about 7 kilograms and stands at 30 centimeters tall; it is equipped with four grapplers that it can launch, detach and aim according to its path planning algorithm. 
For the meantime, the prototype uses magnets that can attach to the ceiling, but the mechanism by which they attach can vary depending on the surface.

The robot works using springs that eject the magnets and an engine that returns the string after it is fired, explains Alon Capua, a student at the university’s robotics department who created Spiderbot for his master’s project.

Yoav Tov and Nati Michaeli are undergraduate students who actually built Spiderbot for their senior-year project. Capua was in charge of the planning and analytical aspects of the project, while Dr. Amir Shapiro supervised the students.

Spiderbot is equipped with 28 engines that allow for its flexible range of motion. The planning created a challenge for Capua, who says that Spiderbot has to remain steady even when hanging upside down.

Capua adds that there are static robots that use strings in order to change their location, but that Spiderbot is the first robot to use strings in order to actually move.

Capua explains that the prototype is being used to illustrate the robot’s abilities. In order to maximize its potential, Spiderbot would require more powerful engines and possibly different mechanisms to attach to different surfaces, depending on whether the surroundings are a city or a forest or another location.

Spiderbot’s potential uses are great, adds Capua, who says it could be used for rescue purposes or even for spying if a camera were installed.

Dr. Amir Shapiro, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is head of BGU’s robotics lab. To learn more about his animal-inspired robots, click here.